Conversations For Transformation: Essays Inspired By The Ideas Of Werner Erhard

Conversations For Transformation

Essays By Laurence Platt

Inspired By The Ideas Of Werner Erhard

And More


Seven Fingers

Chicago, Illinois, USA

May 13, 2015



"At least in the matter of integrity, who you are is your word, nothing more and nothing less. However in a very real sense, who you are - period - is your word."  ... 
This essay, Seven Fingers, is the second in the eighth trilogy Visits With A Friend:
  1. Read To Us
  2. Seven Fingers
  3. Smart People
in that order.
The first trilogy Visits With A Friend is:
  1. Second First Impression
  2. Do Artists Retire?
  3. Presence Of Love
in that order.
The second trilogy Visits With A Friend is:
  1. Black Brick
  2. Wet Water
  3. On Saying Nothing
in that order.
The third trilogy Visits With A Friend is:
  1. Master Of Life
  2. Face To Face
  3. Love And Kindness
in that order.
The fourth trilogy Visits With A Friend is:
  1. Personal Piece
  2. Magnum Opus
  3. Walk A Way With Me
in that order.
The fifth trilogy Visits With A Friend is:
  1. Natural Expression
  2. Essential Question
  3. There Is No "The Answers"
in that order.
The sixth trilogy Visits With A Friend is:
  1. Sophisticated Palate
  2. Open To Everyone
  3. Portal
in that order.
The seventh trilogy Visits With A Friend is:
  1. Meetings With A Remarkable Man
  2. Being Directed By The Unanswered Question
  3. Out Here
in that order.
The ninth trilogy Visits With A Friend is:
  1. Intimacy In A Crowded Place
  2. What Goes On Internally
  3. Riding The Horse Revisited
in that order.
 The eighth trilogy Visits With A Friend is the sequel to
  1. Three Stairs At A Time
  2. Something Fierce, Something Wonderful
  3. Serving High
  4. Simple But Not Easy
 in that order.

 It is also the prequel to Creating For Creation's Sake.

 This essay, Seven Fingers, is also the twelfth in a group of sixteen on Integrity: I am indebted to Dennis "Chip" Wilson and to Steve Zaffron who inspired this conversation, and to Michael Jensen who contributed material.




Here's a story I created by embellishing a simple yet profound idea you shared:

I met a man who had seven fingers  ... that is to say only  seven fingers. The pinky, ring finger, and middle finger of his right hand were all gone, each neatly severed well below the first knuckle. I asked him what happened. This is what he told me.

He was talking with God about the cost of being out of integrity - which is to say he was in a conversation with God about the cost of not practicing being in integrity. He disputed God's account that every out-integrity act, no matter how seemingly insignificant, no matter how seemingly inconsequential, diminutes him ie makes him smaller as a human being. He told God he wasn't overly concerned, to which God pointed out violating the law of integrity incurs as drastic a consequence as violating the law of gravity - whether understood or not, whether appreciated or not, whether agreed with or not. The man laughed, declaring it nonsense that there could be such a thing as a law of integrity, saying he would bet a finger  there wasn't such a law, and therefore were no consequences for violating it.

The next day he was scheduled for a meeting he promised to chair. But he figured he'd make more money attending to something else in his office. So he stayed at his desk and missed the meeting, brushing off the inconvenience this caused the attendees of the meeting. Whack!  The pinky of his right hand disappeared, leaving nothing but a bloody stump. "Ouch!" he yelled in pain and surprise, discovering the cost of being out of integrity the hard way.

He'd learned a lesson, a new respect for the law of integrity, for being in integrity, and for how being out of integrity diminutes him. Then one day he was completing an estimate, a critical part of a proposal his company was bidding for a contract. Excusing the fact that his team expected the work to be completed after lunch ("What do a couple of hours matter?" he said, "I'll have it done by tomorrow"), he took the afternoon off and went to the movies. Whack!  The ring finger of his right hand disappeared, leaving another bloody stump. "God!" he screamed, "Why didn't I remember that would happen? Didn't I learn it last time? God-dammit! I forgot.". God said "If you forget the law of gravity, it won't hurt any less when you fall off a cliff, will it? Better you remember the law of integrity next time. Better remember every  time. Better remember always.".

I got the idea. It was a painful lesson - as much for him who suffered through it as it was for me listening him sharing it. I said to him "So let me guess how you lost the middle finger, the third one: you had one more denial of / forgetting of the consequences of being out of integrity and whack!, you gained another bloody stump where the middle finger used to be. But now you've finally learned you can't and shouldn't mess with being out of integrity. Your remaining seven fingers are testimony to that, yes?". "Yes" he replied, a wiser man now.



Inescapable Consequences



That's my story, embellished from your idea. My story isn't true, which is to say it didn't really happen. But the message it embodies is invaluable, so I offer it here as a kind of legend, as a kind of folk lore  on a par with an Aesop's fable  if you will, the moral of which is: any out-integrity act ie any act which violates integrity, has inescapable consequences, the most immediate and damning of which is the diminution of who we are as human beings.

Now, when I use the term "inescapable  consequences" for any act which violates integrity, I do so carefully. I'm really not a fundamentalist, and I want to distance myself from any associations with fire and brimstone  type preaching. The thing is that determining whether or not it's worthwhile  being a person of integrity, which is to say if you're evaluating whether or not you should or shouldn't  be a person of integrity ie if you're doing a cost / benefits analysis  on the impact in your life of honoring your word, you simply can not  be a person of integrity.

<aside>

It took me a while to get this for myself: if I'm doing a cost / benefits analysis on the impact in my life of honoring my word, I simply can not be a person of integrity.

Really! It's not an option. Don't try to figure it out. Just sit with it in your lap like a hot brick.

<un-aside>


Towards Distinguishing Integrity



So: what is integrity? I mean what is integrity really?  Integrity is actually very simple: integrity is nothing more and nothing less than honoring your word (as a Landmark Seminar Leader may say). It's a definition I've taken a while to mature into. My erstwhile definition of integrity was "keeping  your word" not "honoring your word". While keeping my word is an essential component of my integrity, it doesn't cover eventualities when, for whatever reason, I can't keep my word yet I'm still in integrity. Furthermore, defining integrity as keeping my word ensures  I only give my word to small things. Giving my word to big, huge  undertakings almost guarantees I won't be able to keep my word at least some of the time, or that I won't be able to keep my word on time  at least some of the time.

You define my word (as in the integrity distinguishing phrase "honoring my word") as:

 1)  what I said
2)  what I know
3)  what's expected of me
4)  what I say is so
5)  what I stand for

As I immerse myself deeper and deeper into your work distinguishing integrity, I notice being in integrity as honoring my word includes what I said - that much is obvious. Not so obvious is honoring my word ie being in integrity, includes honoring what I know, honoring what's expected of me (unless I've explicitly stated I won't be doing what's expected of me), honoring what I say is so, and honoring what I stand for. It also includes honoring what I said I would do on time, and as soon as I know I'll not be doing what I said I would do on time, letting those concerned know I'll not be doing what I said I would do on time, then cleaning up the mess caused by not doing what I said I would do on time, and re-promising to do what I said I would do, and by when - or saying that I won't be doing it at all, after all.



Why Honor My Word?



Unlike the fellow in the story I embellished from your idea, I still have all my ten fingers (if I tell the truth about it, there've been some very  close calls ...) and I intend keeping them all intact. Integrity is honoring my word, and I honor my word not because I did a cost / benefits analysis on the impact in my life of honoring my word and the results of the analysis confirmed it's worth it  (remember: if you're doing a cost / benefits analysis on the impact in your life of honoring your word, you simply can not be a person of integrity), but rather I honor my word as a stand for honoring my word  - or (stated tersely) I honor my word to honor my word.

Not honoring my word guarantees the diminution of who I am as a human being. That's it. That's all.


Postscript:

The presentation, delivery, and style of Seven Fingers are all my own work.

The ideas recreated in Seven Fingers were first originated, distinguished, and articulated by Werner Erhard and distributed in the paper titled Creating Leaders: A New Model An Evening with Werner Erhard and Professor Michael C Jensen.





Communication Promise E-Mail | Home

© Laurence Platt - 2015, 2016 Permission